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[November 08, 2012]
Southern Pines residents weigh cost of 'backdoor' garbage collection
Nov 08, 2012 (The Fayetteville Observer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- SOUTHERN PINES -- Paul and Cydney Mullen moved to Southern Pines in 1992 from Fort Hood, Texas, where every Wednesday night they had to drag a metal trash can 100 feet to the curb.
In Southern Pines, garbage collectors come up to their garage and take the trash can back to the street to empty it into a truck. Southern Pines officials say the town is one of few still offering the service.
"We thought we had died and gone to heaven," Cydney Mullen said.
Southern Pines has offered its residents "backdoor" garbage collection for more than three decades, said Assistant Town Manager David White, who also serves as the town's director of public services.
"As long as I can remember," he said.
Waste Management, a Texas-based company that serves communities in North Carolina, has picked up garbage for Southern Pines for about 25 years. The town is getting ready to solicit bids for its solid waste services for fiscal 2014, which begins July 1.
The Town Council told White to get bids for backdoor and curbside garbage collection so council members would know how much each service would cost from various companies.
Mayor David McNeill said the town would get feedback from residents before making a decision.
"At that point, we'll decide if we want to keep doing what we're doing or do something different," he said.
About 75 percent of town residents take advantage of backdoor services, White said. The others take their garbage cans to the curb.
Town officials say some people don't realize backdoor service is available when they move to the town. One such person was Heather Huff, who was raking leaves in her yard Friday.
"We're happy to bring it to the street," she said of her trash can. "I don't think we'd utilize the backdoor service." Waste Management workers picked up trash in Huff's neighborhood in the eastern section of Southern Pines on Friday. Some cans were by the road, but usually they were up a driveway or beside a garage.
A driver would stop the truck so a helper could roll a 96-gallon green can into a yard and empty the residents' can into the green container. On some streets, the driver would get out and take another green can to a house across the street.
Sometimes, the workers would go from one house to the next, but other times, they went back to the street.
Back at the road, the workers would attach the green cans to the back of the truck and pull a lever, causing the truck to lift the can and empty it into the back of the truck.
Paul McCrimmon, a route manager for Waste Management, oversees all of the garbage collection in Southern Pines. He said the workers learn where to find the trash cans.
The workers don't have to go more than 200 feet from the road to get the trash, but McCrimmon said they usually work with residents to find a good place to get the cans.
McCrimmon said the workers have a good attitude about their jobs. He said that if a trash can is not by the road as expected, the workers will see if it's near the house.
"If they go by and don't see it, they'll check," he said.
Waste Management picks up trash from more than 5,000 homes in Southern Pines, McCrimmon said. One truck picks up about six tons of garbage each day, he said.
Cydney Mullen said she realizes that town leaders need to consider the cost of backdoor pickup.
"I hope it continues," she said.
Another resident, Marion Chandler, said she likes the backdoor service because she is not physically able to lift her trash can.
"I could never get it to the road," she said.
Chandler said she probably would take her garbage can to the curb if she could. She understands why town officials are looking at the issue.
"You want to make it as convenient as possible for other people, but you're paying for the convenience with your taxes," she said.
Staff writer Steve DeVane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-486-3572.
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